On Need Wallets and their Contents

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On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Greg » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:04 am

Due to my interest on the subject, and having constructed two separate iterations in attempts to fulfill the description of the item carried by Isildur's guard during the disaster of the Gladden fields, I bring forth new research to support that, frankly...I don't have it right yet. The portmanteau served much the same purpose, but that tale grew in the telling, and I think isn't an appropriate item for this use. I will still carry a portmanteau, but not as a need-wallet, but rather as a pantry, much as Odigan's was originally intended to be. Instead, I intend to make a smaller, more vital pack that stays on my belt at all times which is weather-sealed and carries a small, significantly more accurate cargo of medicinal and caloric necessities.

Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth, Part I: The First Age; Book I: Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin

Voronwë, speaking to Tuor:
"As for me, I am of the Noldor, and long must be the hunger and cold the winter that shall slay the kin of those who passed the Grinding Ice. Yet how think you that we could labour countless days in the salt wastes of the sea? Or have you not heard of the way-bread of the Elves? And I keep still that which all mariners hold until the last." Then he showed beneath his cloak a sealed wal¬let clasped upon his belt. "No water nor weather will harm it while it is sealed. But we must husband it until great need..."

This suggests that the need-wallet is not, in fact, an invention of the Numenoreans, but hearkens all the way back to the first age, had its origins with the elves, and is specifically referenced as the tool of a Mariner. Here, it is only mentioned as containing elvish way-bread, but later references give us more clues as to the contents.

Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth, Part III: The Third Age; Book I: The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

" Though it was a long journey, each of the Dúnedain carried in a sealed wallet on his belt a small phial of cordial and wafers of a waybread that would sustain life in him for many days – not indeed the miruvor 30 or the lembas of the Eldar, but like them, for the medicine and other arts of Númenor were potent and not yet forgotten. No belt or wallet was among the gear discarded by Isildur."

Here, two full ages later, we have essentially an identical Artifact described as being carried now by a Numenorean, rather than an Elf, as well as a suggestion that Isildur himself was also carrying one. The contents are strikingly similar: a waybread of surpassingly quality sustenance, though lesser in virtue than that of the elves. In addition, we have a small phial of a medicinal/alcoholic cordial likened to that which was common beginning in Renaissance Europe (and continued use well into Pioneer America) which would be expected to warm the heart, and potentially (herbally) treat various internal ailments, depending on the contents. The wallet is once again described as being sealed from the elements, and is seen as a standard piece of gear.
I currently am eight days into the six-week process of steeping Middle-Earth reference-able herbs and diced fruits in a 40% alc/vol brandy that will be strained and then sweetened with honey to result in a Cordial fitting for a Ranger to carry, in the tradition of the Noldor and Numenoreans during the days of Isildur. Details on that project to follow. Waybread that keeps well for long periods, I'm still working on...I don't think Hardtack will fit the bill for this item, as there's nothing to suggest that the waybread they're carrying needs to be soaked, cooked, or otherwise processed to be edible.

The search continues, but we're getting somewhere.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Elleth » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:58 am

Wonderful- I'd forgotten about the "sealed" reference.,. Dipped in wax I wonder? Sewn in sealskin? And "clasped" upon the belt is interesting imagery. Naively, I'd think of a sealed packet within a pouch, like an old fashioned wound dressing pouch on army belts.. This sounds different though.

For a bit of digression, I've occasionally wondered if the spirit-lightening effects of lembas were herbal in nature..a trace amount of euphoric, but not so much as to actually be an intoxicant. I'm not about to try it (80s just-say-no kid and all)- but I confess to an academic curiosity.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Eledhwen » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:43 am

I always based mine off of these descriptions, but added some small things like fishing line and hooks, spare flint and steel, etc. Still very small, centered on the back of my belt.

Generally, when it comes to arms and equipment, I tend to figure the Numenóreans derived their kit from the Noldorin...since Elves were the teachers of the Houses of Men.

I'll have to get one of them out and get some pics of it; I have more than one and they vary in size a little bit. I don't have miruvor of course, but I do have purification tablets. Totally anachronistic but in keeping with modern needs.

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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Mirimaran » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:28 pm

Fascinating subject, and it never ceases to amaze me that the Professor would detail such minutia, which we devour. Honestly, the cordial sounds like Jägermeister (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%A4germeister)to me. I will have to carry a small vial. I think this would make a great winter project as well, I do have several small pouches that would fit the bill, but I think one made specifically for this purpose would be fun.

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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Greg » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:16 am

I agree that other items could be added for practicality, to enhance the need-wallet as a piece of first line gear. I'm planning on waybread, cordial in a glass phial, flint+steel, and first aid supplies. While sealing it in wax would certainly echo the Noldor's use of it, I don't want opening mine to be a chore, or a one-time-use deal that requires work afterwards, so I'm working out a way to line a leather wallet in oilcloth, etc. for sealing.

Good point, Ken. What I find even more fascinating is that, thousands of years apart in his timeline, he stays consistent. Then again, both references (which constitute ALL of the references to need-wallets) are found in the Unfinished tales. Was he just in the mood for it during these other writings, and the mood just didn't strike during the LOTR writing?

Any thoughts or insights into packable waybreads that don't look like oatmeal cookies/fruitcake?
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Udwin » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:23 am

Hmm, I have a recipe for what's meant to be a shelf-stable ~2000kcal DIY homemade 'survival ration bar'...some combination of oats, powdered milk, sugar, honey, and jello. Supposedly they don't taste too bad, but I'm pretty sure orange Jello isn't a Tolkien-approved flavour.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Ringulf » Thu Oct 08, 2015 6:11 pm

Udwin wrote:Hmm, I have a recipe for what's meant to be a shelf-stable ~2000kcal DIY homemade 'survival ration bar'...some combination of oats, powdered milk, sugar, honey, and jello. Supposedly they don't taste too bad, but I'm pretty sure orange Jello isn't a Tolkien-approved flavour.


Wow that sounds good one way or the other! I wonder though, speaking of Tolkiens consistancy about the subject, whether or not it might be based on an actual peice of equipment used by the British soldier in WW1 that may have been the influence for this item, very much the way the trench swords may have influenced his description of Sting?
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Greg » Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:21 am

I haven't found anything in support of that yet, but I'll keep looking.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Ringulf » Fri Oct 09, 2015 9:35 pm

Just a thought. In following his writings for so many years, I am always delighted to find the connections with his life's story that seem to spring from such a vast well of practical knowledge and experience. I think it is almost possible to not only study his outward works, but his process of arriving at them.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Greg » Fri Dec 25, 2015 7:41 am

To re-open this discussion in regards to the waybread carried in a need-wallet, I found a pretty solid reference that supports my own tendency to want to avoid trying to make a trek-able bread that mimics Lembas in any way, even just in name. It's quite clear in The Peoples of Middle-Earth that Tolkien (and the Eldar, in fact) never intended for Lembas to be consumed by Mortals. Read on:

The Peoples of Middle-Earth; Of Lembas: wrote:'This food the Eldar alone knew how to make. It was made for
the comfort of those who had need to go upon a long journey
in the wild, or of the hurt whose life was in peril. Only these
were permitted to use it. The Eldar did not give it to Men, save
only to a few whom they loved, if they were in great need.*
The Eldar say that they first received this food from the Valar
in the beginning of their days in the Great Journey. For it was
made of a kind of corn which Yavanna brought forth in the
fields of Aman, and some she sent to them by the hand of
Orome for their succour upon the long march.

(* This was not done out of greed or jealousy, although at no time in
Middle-earth was there great store of this food; but because the Eldar
had been commanded to keep this gift in their own power, and not to
make it common to the dwellers in mortal lands. For it is said that, if
mortals eat often of this bread, they become weary of their mortality,
desiring to abide among the Elves, and longing for the fields of Aman,
to which they cannot come.)

Since it came from Yavanna, the queen, or the highest among
the elven-women of any people, great or small, had the keeping
and gift of the lembas, for which reason she was called massanie
or besain: the Lady, or breadgiver.(1)
Now this corn had in it the strong life of Aman, which it
could impart to those who had the need and right to use the
bread. If it was sown at any season, save in frost, it soon
sprouted and grew swiftly, though it did not thrive in the
shadow of plants of Middle-earth and would not endure winds
that came out of the North while Morgoth dwelt there. Else it
needed only a little sunlight to ripen; for it took swiftly and
multiplied all the vigour of any light that fell on it.
The Eldar grew it in guarded lands and sunlit glades; and they
gathered its great golden ears, each one, by hand, and set no
blade of metal to it. The white haulm was drawn from the earth
in like manner, and woven into corn-leep (2) for the storing of the
grain: no worm or gnawing beast would touch that gleaming
straw, and rot and mould and other evils of Middle-earth did
not assail it.
From the ear to the wafer none were permitted to handle this
grain, save those elven-women who were called Yavannildi
(or by the Sindar the Ivonwin),(3) the maidens of Yavanna; and
the art of the making of the lembas, which they learned of the
Valar, was a secret among them, and so ever has remained.'
Lembas is the Sindarin name, and comes from the older form
lenn-mbass 'journey-bread'. In Quenya it was most often
named coimas which is 'life-bread'.(4)


Pardon the long quote...the section was short enough that I thought it prudent to include the whole thing.

This also makes me wonder...we've discussed a few times whether or not "The Tall corn Growing" was indeed Maize, or if it was a reference to oats or other grains. Here, the "Corn" is collected/gathered/harvested one "Great Golden Ear" at a time, by hand, without setting blades of any kind to the plant. Now I'm no grain harvesting expert, but I'll be honest...I was on the "It's not maize" bandwagon until I read that line. That sure sounds like the corn we know of here in the Americas. I will warrant that grains can all be considered "Golden" but "Great" hints at rather large size, and grain clusters tend to not want to be released from their stems casually (ie. without a knife, etc.) Food for thought...pending other's input here, this may open the door for some corn-based trail foods, which could become quite interesting.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Elleth » Fri Dec 25, 2015 5:56 pm

Hrmm.. well my emotional reaction is still "it can't be maize" - though I confess that's largely my own desire for the romantic high food of the elves to not be so mundane a thing as cornpone. : )

So perhaps it's motivated reasoning, but I'm still inclined to think more along the lines of "special magical wheat-like-thing" than maize. "Golden ear" works in either context - but maize hasn't got a white weavable straw stalk (haulm). Nor is it so cold tolerant as that text suggests... though perhaps this December it'd do okay. : )

Oh! Just saw this:
273px-Egyptian_harvest.jpg
273px-Egyptian_harvest.jpg (36.74 KiB) Viewed 2892 times

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Egyptian_harvest.jpg
Interestingly, the crop in the row you can just barely see above does look like wheat, and IS harvested with a hand sickle of some kind: I've no idea what this pictured crop is.

I can still imagine Numenoreans bringing over maize (or proto-maize) along with the tobacco the good Professor was so fond of - though for myself, I think I'll avoid it just on atmosphere / mental picture grounds.

Oh - regarding your cordial recipe: I mentioned it to my fella, who's started brewing this last year, and he's keen to try it. Would you mind sharing the proportion of apples/raisins/sage/thyme you used, so that he can try it as a baseline before experimenting? Or is it a household secret?

(Going over the ingredients, it occurred to me.. we have young apple trees, baby grape vines, and an herb bed... so in ten years or so when everything's grown up [and we get a distillation license/stamp/whatever one uses I guess] - we might be able to go from field-to-cordial right here! That would be all kinds of fun! Patience, patience.. :mrgreen: )
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Udwin » Fri Dec 25, 2015 6:20 pm

I'll admit, that passage does seem very maize-suggestive! And maize does come from the lands across the ocean west of Europe (Aman? America? Amanica??) ;-) (Of course I also figure that the Americas would've only been created following the Downfall near the end of the Second Age.)
Like the lembas-grain, maize also doesn't like to endure wind (though its propping-up roots help stand it back up again when knocked over!)
And also relevant, note #2: "haulm: the stalks of cultivated plants left when the ears or pods have been gathered; corn-leeps: leep (leap) is an old dialect word for a basket (Old English leap)."

So, what we know:
lembas is made by elf-ladies from a grain that grows semi-miraculously, produces Great Golden Ears which are hand-picked; the stalks are likewise hand-uprooted and woven into containers of "gleaming straw" for storing the grain.
Has anyone ever heard of folks using cornstalks (stalks of maize) to make baskets or similar?

While it's very tempting and a fun thought-experiment, I'm with Elleth in that it is much more likely that Tolkien is describing a fantastic SuperWheat (or a wheat-like plant unknown outside of the Blessed Realm)--imagine this scaled up to the size of an ear of corn!
Image

Plus, there's the Professor's own comments in Letter 210 (June 1958), which suggest lembas was wheat-based (albeit an anglic elven uberwheat) :
"…I dislike equally any pull towards ‘scientification’…no analysis in any laboratory would discover chemical properties of lembas that made it superior to other cakes of wheat-meal."
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Elleth » Fri Dec 25, 2015 7:53 pm

Counter to my own position: I'd forgotten that while maize stalks aren't used for basketry, the husks are.
... I still don't think that's what the Professor had in mind, but I have to admit it's a defensible case on those grounds.

That said, that the haulm is described as as "gleaming straw" argues against husk basketry.

The letter Udwin found does rather seal it for me on the "angelic wheat" side I think.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Greg » Sat Dec 26, 2015 2:17 am

This is why I bring these thoughts here. I couldn't, for the life of me, find ANYTHING on "halum" in the almighty google. Kept asking me if I spelled "Harlem" or "Harem" wrong...

Thanks for the input! Corn-maize aside, the main point of my post was still to point out that Lembas was SPECIFICALLY cited as being kept away from humans except under dire circumstances. To that end, the average Dunedain Ranger in the north not only would most likely never taste lembas, but would actually be geographically dis-inclined to ever come across any. I DO think that the waybread described in the sealed need-wallet passage is the product of the Edain attempting to make a hard-wearing, stomach-filling bread based on the rumours of the bread made by the Elves, but we now know for a fact that a Ranger essentially should not be carrying lembas.
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Re: On Need Wallets and their Contents

Postby Manveruon » Mon Dec 28, 2015 5:52 am

Fascinating stuff! Very, very fascinating indeed! I admit, I had no idea of the absolutely rigid rules the Professor had apparently laid out regarding lembas. That definitely changes some things for me.

However, Greg, I think you've hit the nail right on the head in your last comment. In fact, it might even be worth positing that ALL hard-tack-like foods, such as waybread, cram, etc. in Middle Earth might have originated from men and/or other lesser beings, trying with their own ingredients to replicate that which they had heard rumors of from Elven lands - which, I might add, is precisely what several of us around here, myself included, have done by trying to create "lembas" equivalents ourselves! Life imitating art imitating... myth? Haha.
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